How much does it cost to publish a book?
This is a great question, and I love the subtle undercurrent to the wording! It so eloquently highlights the misunderstanding most people (even authors) have about Publishing, namely that they think it’s the printing of the book that costs. Not true.
If you want to print your book it costs $3 or so via a print on demand vendor. You can even go to your library and use the laser printer to create a book. But as we all should know, the value of a book lies in the quality and nature of the writing.
So to Publish a book that will sell, reach the right audience, and make a splash, it will cost a publisher between $5000 and $30,000 per book. These costs are partly fixed costs like office and equipment, but mostly skilled staff costs such as Acquisitions Editors, Development Editors, Copy Editors, Proofreaders and Typesetters. All these need to get paid, and if they’re going to do a good job to take a mediocre manuscript and turn it into a bestseller, they need to get paid at or above market rate. When asking “how much does it cost to publish a book”, all these must be taken into account.
The biggest contributor to whether a book will sell or fall by the wayside is the Acquisitions Editor (Commissioning Editor). They are almost always on staff at the bigger Publishers, and are skilled at recognising great topic ideas, great writing, great author platforms and great market opportunities. Seldom (if ever) do you get an author who can bring all four of these to the table, yet a great book needs all these to succeed. It is the AE that provides for the missing ingredients. The reason I mention this is that almost no-one knows these people exist and what value they bring, yet these people also need paying. The big difference between self-published and published authors ultimately will come down to those who use skilled Acquisitions/Commissioning professionals, and those that don’t — because by the time the other types of Editors get hold of a work it’s already too late to make the drastic changes in direction an AE will make.
About the author
Rob de Jongh is the founder of Woodland Press, a small independent non-fiction publisher. As an author he has had his books and magazine articles published with some of the world’s most well known publishers. He formerly worked as a successful acquisitions editor for a UK and a US publisher, devising and bringing some of their best-selling books to publication.